LAFAYETTE, La. (BP)–Keng Deng came to the United
States with $40 in his pocket and belief in only one thing –
– that whatever he wanted he would have to strive for on his
own, without the help of others.
Caught on the wrong side of the communist takeover of
China, Deng and his family ended up near the very bottom of
society in that country. No one had given Deng and his
family anything for a long time.
“We were just like the forgotten people,” Deng
recounts. “And I just struggled my own way. I didn’t believe
anything unless I could strive my way out. I believed in my
In 1986, Deng’s abilities in math resulted in a
scholarship to pursue a doctorate at Iowa State University
in Ames. He arrived in this country with little money — and
no transportation from the airport, which was located in
However, Deng happened to overhear someone talking
about going to the city where the university was located.
The person turned out to be an Iowa State professor who
ended up driving Deng straight to the campus.
Once settled, Deng devoted himself to his doctoral
work. By 1989, he was preparing to graduate and return to
China since his visa required him to work at least two years
in his native country.
Then came the infamous Tianamen Square incident in
China in which Chinese officials cracked down on
freedom-seeking students. Then-President George Bush quickly
changed the visa status for Deng and others like him. They
were free to stay in this country. Deng began looking for a
job and found one at the University of Southwestern
Louisiana in Lafayette. He and his family — wife Jan, son
James and daughter Angela — moved to the Bayou State.
As Deng stayed busy with his work, his wife and
children got involved in a local Chinese mission sponsored
by First Baptist Church of Lafayette. Deng went to the
mission very occasionally.
One Sunday morning, however, his wife prevailed on him
to attend with her — and Deng entered the first Bible study
class of his life. As he explains, in China, he and his
family did not believe anything about the Bible and God.
“We didn’t even have a chance to look at the Bible,”
Deng says. “It was so hard then to find even one Bible. We
were not taught anything about God.”
After that first Bible class, Deng decided to study
this book that was so new to him. “I decided even if I don’t
believe the Christianity, I could study the Bible and try to
find out why so many people love it and study it,” he
Deng continued going to Bible class. He and his wife
saw positive things happen at the mission. They discussed
the Bible together. They read it as well as other books
about Christianity and Jesus Christ.
“And we realized more and more truth about God,” Deng
says. “And then we just came up to a point.”
That point came as a minister of the mission spent an
afternoon with the Dengs. By the end of the visit, the
husband and wife had accepted Christ as their personal Lord
and Savior. Their son had made a similar decision a few
years earlier at a Bible school. “But since we didn’t
believe that, he didn’t go any farther,” Deng says.
This time, he did. Indeed, on Easter Sunday 1997, all
three professing Dengs were baptized as new Christians.
In ensuing months, the family has experienced a great
love and peace, Deng says. “We can feel the blessings of
God. Even if some things are very aggravating, we can now
stand it when we couldn’t do so in the past. That’s the
patience from God.”
As a professor, Deng also gets a lot of chances to talk
about his experiences with students — and he is always glad
to do so. When he relates those details, he now casts a
different slant on them. He considers how he received his
stateside scholarship only after having been forced to study
math — and how he is sure such a scholarship would not have
come in his desired field of computer science.
He recalls how he found transportation to the Iowa
State campus, how he was allowed to stay in the United
States and how he accepted the job in Lafayette just two
days before receiving another offer from a Mormon
“If I didn’t come here to this country, I probably
wouldn’t even have had a chance to hear about God,” Deng
notes. “So, looking back, I see many important events in my
life and realize they were God’s plan for me. I really
believe it all was arranged.
“Even if I was not a Christian, God never forgot me,”
“That was most important.”
Reprinted from “Bridges,” a special newspaper being used by
Louisiana Baptist churches to share the gospel with every
person in the state.